Obituary: Hans–Eberhard Dingels, former International Secretary of the SPD

Hans–Eberhard Dingels, former International Secretary of the SPD, will be laid to rest in his home-town Bonn on the 8th of April 2014.

The following text by Dr. Ernst Stetter and Dr. Klaus Voll remembers an outstanding German and European Social Democrat of our time. 

For thirty-­‐one years, from 1964 until 1995, Hans-­‐Eberhard Dingels was the head of the Department of International Relations of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The end of the Cold War, Willy Brandt’s Ost-­‐Politik and Germany’s integration into Western Europe as well as its opening up to the wider world required at the operative level of the party a man of his stature.

Dingels, who studied law and political science in Bonn, was a well‐read man with a keen interest in international affairs, which he practiced already in socialist youth organizations before he became International Secretary of the SPD. As a permanent member of the Bureau of the Socialist International (SI), Dingels occupied several positions, amongst them as a member of the Middle East SI­Delegation, led by former Austrian Chancellor Dr. Bruno Kreisky from 1972–1976. He advised the SI Presidents (former French Prime Minister) Pierre Mauroy and former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres between 1975 and 2000.

Towards the end of the Second World War, Hans-­Eberhard Dingels encountered members of the Indian National Army, led by the legendary Subhas Chandra Bose. His keen interest in India, Burma and Asian Affairs lasted throughout his life, with professional and personal relations to a whole galaxy of Indian socialists, amongst them the prominent trade unionist Ashoka Mehta and George Fernandes, who, in his last ministerial function, was India’s Defence Minister. Dingels and Fernandes communicated over a period of nearly fifty years. Dingels saw India, although not uncritically, as one of the big powers of the future International System.

Dingels, endowed with a sense of sublime, yet never hurtful humour and irony, regretted in his later years the “resistance to advice” on international affairs by parts of the German political class. Looking back to his life, he was proud of being able to free some political prisoners and to have professionally promoted young men and especially also women.

He kept a sophisticated personal library at his home and was always ready to interact with young students and academics, who specialized in areas of his competence. Dingels, who even studied economics after his retirement, contributed some articles on international affairs, also highlighting common interests of Europe and India in West Asia. He was very knowledgeable about Iran and Afghanistan.

His former colleagues and friends in Europe and world-­‐wide will miss this truly excellent and unassuming man of knowledge and deep professional expertise, who, as a German, European -­ particularly also vis­‐à-­vis France and its Socialist Party -­ and Internationalist, contributed in his own way to the international relations of our times.

When you called him from far away, he always started the conversation: "How is the state of play?" Today we have to answer: "Hans­‐Eberhard, sincerely, we miss you!".